Inequality in the U.S. is real and it is growing. To discuss inequality is to open yourself up to charges of envy and class warfare. Inequality has many defenders and many reside at the upper reaches of the income world. The above chart shows the 1 percent and then the 1 percent of the 1 percent. It is worth asking how much deference should be accorded to the already ultra-wealthy and ultra-powerful while the future of Social Security is placed in jeopardy, the middle class continues to asphyxiate, education costs skyrocket and governments slash more and more services.
To hear some people tell it, we should not only be grateful to the super-wealthy, but the government should work hard to increase the rewards of wealth. A recent article about Edward Conard, who is planning to publish a book, Unintended Consequences, finally makes the overdue argument that there isn’t enough inequality in the United States. Edward Conard was a colleague of Mitt Romney’s at Bain Capital, and a campaign contributor. Here are a couple of paragraphs from the article to help get a sense of these fellows.
Conard and Romney certainly share views on numerous policy matters. Like many Republicans, they promote lower taxes and less regulation for those who achieve financial success. Romney has also said that rising inequality is not a problem and that the attention paid to the issue is “about envy. I think it’s about class warfare.” The differences between these two men are also striking. Romney’s economic platform and his record as the governor of Massachusetts suggest that he is more of a centrist than Conard. Romney wants to eliminate capital-gains taxes for people earning less than $200,000 a year but keep them in place for the 1 percent, which Conard says is a good start but doesn’t go far enough.
The biggest difference is that Romney is running for president and needs more people to like him. Conard doesn’t have to worry about that. “People get very angry before they change their mind,” he said. “Economics is counterintuitive. It just is.” I told him that surely is true, but his ideas are counterintuitive even to people well versed in economics. After we spoke for one of the last times, he sent me an e-mail summing up his argument: At base, having a small elite with vast wealth is good for the poor and middle class. “From my perspective,” he wrote, “it’s not a close call.”
Here is a description of Conard’s push to get the word about the wonders of inequality:
Unlike his former colleagues, Conard wants to have an open conversation about wealth. He has spent the last four years writing a book that he hopes will forever change the way we view the superrich’s role in our society. “Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong,” to be published in hardcover next month by Portfolio, aggressively argues that the enormous and growing income inequality in the United States is not a sign that the system is rigged. On the contrary, Conard writes, it is a sign that our economy is working. And if we had a little more of it, then everyone, particularly the 99 percent, would be better off. This could be the most hated book of the year.
The article goes on to explain that Conard is a brainy sort of fellow who commands respect in academia, although it also points out Conard’s mean streak. Inequality really doesn’t work without nastiness. The theorists and apologists of inequality rarely fail to exhibit some nasty streak. Perhaps it is because when inequality reaches a certain point it requires nastiness to enforce it. People being shed from the middle class into status of greater insecurity do not always feel grateful to the genius of the wealthy elite. There is always enforcement of the inequality.
Sean Hannity is a great example of the need to put people in their place. Here and here you can read an analysis of his recent radio show comments about how good the poor in the USA have it and how easy it is for them to fill up on cheap eats. Here is some transcription of his statement from Newshounds:
I never went to bed hungry in my life… Most Americans haven’t. … I have friends of mine that eat rice and beans all the time. Beans – protein – rice. Inexpensive. You can make a big pot of this for a week for relatively negligible amounts of money for your whole family and feed your family.
Look, you should have vegetables and fruit in there as well, but, you know, if you need to survive, you can survive off it. It’s not ideal – you know, you can get some cheap meat and throw in there as well for protein. There are ways to live really, really cheaply.
So, you see, survival is good enough for America. Think about how shabby and nasty Hannity’s vision of America is. It is a party for him and his buddies like Ed Conard, but if you complain that maybe, just maybe, Hannity and Conard are getting too much pie, then you are an envious “art-history” student who should eat your beans and rice and shut-up.
Nothing against beans and rice, but didn’t conservative used to be contemptuous of Cubans for having to frequently eat this meal? “Patriotic” flag draped conservatives are fine with subsistence eating for the masses. They have a fancy philosophy to justify their fantastic wealth and the nastiness to make it work. It is a real shame that these guys get a gold plated platform to spout their shabby ideas.